Armin Laschet has won the support of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party to become the party’s candidate in this September’s federal election.
Laschet, who has been the leader of the CDU since January, gained the support of 77.5% of the party board to enter the race to replace chancellor Angela Merkel – a total of 31 members.
Rival Markus Söder – state premier of Bavaria and leader of sister party CSU – received only nine votes and is expected to concede on Tuesday.
“It’s about the best answers to the pressing questions of the future. And I am ready to run for office on our behalf,” Laschet said after the board voted.
Despite Laschet’s seemingly easy win, the vote showed deep splits in a party that typically elects a leader behind closed doors.
Peter Altmaier – a close Merkel ally – switched his support to Söder after saying he perceived a lack of enthusiasm about Laschet in all federal states bar the party leader’s home turf, in North-Rhine Westphalia.
Laschet and Söder have been at loggerheads over who is better placed to become the candidate to lead the conservative alliance, dubbed “the Union”, to an election victory.
Polls have shown Söder to be more popular than Laschet, who is the more conservative candidate, showing the party is prioritising its conservative base over victory.
The prospect of losing votes with Laschet as the candidate for chancellor has unnerved some members of his own CDU party.
Participants at Monday’s marathon talks told German media that Merkel sat in on the video conference but did not contribute to the discussions, with some observers reading into her silence a lack of support for Laschet.
The disarray in the conservative camp was in contrast to the opposition Greens who on Monday, with no internal wrangling, named their co-leader Annalena Baerbock as their first candidate for chancellor in the party’s 40-year history.
A Forsa poll last week put support for the conservative alliance at 27%, ahead of the Greens at 23%.